Spotlight on Madelyn Hill

I am happy to feature Soul Mate author Madelyn Hill and her latest release For the Love of a Gypsy.

Here’s Madelyn!

madelynhillI’ve always had a love of reading and writing, as I suspect all writers do. But in my opinion, those who actually sit down and write their story have something else. Writing is a need, an instinct in which we have to share our story or else we may go mad. I’m sure this is where the term “muse” came from, that inner voice that whispers our stories and encourages us to get them on paper.

I started writing at a young age, short stories of teenage angst. But my serious writing started after the birth of my children when I needed something just for myself, something that was mine. I’d gained inspiration in many ways, but the book Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon inspired me to start writing Scottish historicals. Historicals are truly my favorite genre to read and write. I love research and digging and digging for information and tidbits that can enhance and direct a story. Also, there is just something so romantic about Highlanders and those rogues of historical novels.

As many writers do, we seek out others like us. Almost like we are a herd that is stronger together. A local romance writers group was where I felt as if I could talk about my stories and everyone understood. It was invigorating and in a way liberating. I became actively involved and made so many great friends, friends I would have never encountered outside the group. We had a great time and traveled to conferences, held conferences, facilitated workshops, and ran contests.

I can’t tell you how much I learned during this time period. When I first started, I had no idea about POV, agents, publishing houses, and submitting. But through critique groups, workshops, and conferences, the writing process and world came to light.

When I went back to school after my youngest entered kindergarten, my writing time became limited, but no less sacred. I cut out any unnecessary time sucks and expenses. I didn’t write in a silo, I still had an awesome critique partner and with social networking, writing friends are a few clicks away.

During this time, I didn’t send to publishers, holding back for some reason and then due to the encouragement of my critique partner I sent to Soul Mate Publishing. I have loved working with SMP and I hope to continue publishing with them far into the future.

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Blurb

Can she betray the Gypsy clan who saved her for the love of a stranger?

Martine Petrulengo is stifled by the traditions of her adopted Gypsy clan. They gave her new life when she was left all alone. And now she is expected to marry in order to forge clan allegiances. When she nurses handsome and charming Lord Declan Forrester back to health, she is lured by the seductive idea of life outside of the clan—and the prospect of love with the Irishman.

Can he prove his innocence in order to claim his Gypsy?

Lord Declan Forrester trades prison bars for a loveless marriage in order to save his soul. And now he’s trying to prove his innocence not only as a traitor, but that of his wife’s murder. When the lovely and beguiling Martine saves him, he falls in love for the first time. Yet, the obstacles of his past seem insurmountable.

Martine and Declan must fight tradition, prejudice and the haunting ghosts of their past in order to fight for their love and ensure their future.

Excerpt

A rider urged his horse forward. He wore a leather doublet of a quality she’d never seen. The black hide was pierced with metal and thick stitching formed elaborate Celtic designs. Regal and rich. His breeches hugged his thighs so closely ’twas indecent, but that didn’t stop her gaze from venturing along the hard expanse of his legs. Heat crept up her neck and flushed her face like a flame.

He tipped his head in her brother’s direction. Martine gasped.

The stranger from the glen.

“We’ve business,” was all he said.

Rafe nodded, but didn’t twitch a muscle. Martine wanted to run from the confrontation, hide in her grandmother’s berth safe from the bewitching blue eyes of the intruder. But her feet stayed rooted to the ground.

Och, this man was handsome. Strong jaw, brilliant eyes, and a broad mouth composed a man so striking. His face was a composite of hard planes of granite that matched the intense glare of his eyes.

The man sighed and his comrades inched closer to his side. They dressed as he did, except their clothing lacked the obvious quality she could see stitched in the leather of his.

“The villagers are concerned with your presence, Gypsy.”

She could feel the tension in the tight line of her brother’s shoulders, taste the anger in the air that hummed about him and the stranger. His jaw clenched and he remained silent.

“I’ve come to ask you to leave.”

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Bio

Madelyn Hill has always loved the written word. From the time she could read and all through her school years, she’d sneak books into her textbooks during school. And she devoured books daily. At the age of 10 she proclaimed she wanted to be a writer. After being a “closet” writer for several years, she sent her manuscripts out there and is now published with Soul Mate Publishing. And she couldn’t be happier! A resident of Western New York, she moved from one Rochester to another Rochester to be with the love of her life. They now have 3 children and keep busy cooking, watching their children’s sporting events, and of course reading!

Where to find Madelyn…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

Spotlight on Susan Coryell

I am thrilled to spotlight author Susan Coryell and her three novels.

Here’s Susan!

susancoryelll2How’s the luck of the Irish treating you? Have you found any lucky pennies on the road lately? Four-leaf clovers? Luck is something we writers hope for in every phase of our projects: Lucky to get a good agent, lucky to grab the attention of an editor, lucky to be offered a publication contract. Well, my writing journey is a bumpy one, to say the least. Let me begin by saying I generally do not consider myself to be a lucky person. I do not win sweepstakes, I do not win drawings and once, at a fashion show, I was the only person at my table of 10 who did not win a door prize. Let’s just say, I am never surprised when this happens.

eagleI wrote my first novel, Eaglebait, about school bullies when I was teaching 7th and 8th graders. No research needed; my classroom, the school corridors and cafeteria were my lab. For once, I felt lucky when Harcourt offered a contract for a hardback version of Eaglebait. At the time Harcourt was a huge publishing company—later bought out by Houghton Mifflin. My luck ran out when my editor left immediately after editing my book, leaving no one to champion Eaglebait. Though I’d been told by the publisher that it would take two years to get through the library review system, Harcourt pulled my novel after 14 months. Sigh. I’d even managed to acquire two big awards—one national and one international in the short time it was in print, but they were done with me.

Then life intervened. A full-time working mother with three children and a husband who owned his own small business—I felt good if I had time to wash out my pantyhose, let alone write another book. So, even though I had a lot more in my writing mind, I simply had no time to create another novel.

Blessed retirement popped me right into free-lance writing in my new lake community. I loved writing for everything from my church to the local arts council. I wrote for the Chamber of Commerce, a political group and the charity home tour. I wrote for magazines and newspapers. Not much money involved, but I’d never been in the “business” for profit anyway. I was feeling very lucky!

untitledBut I finally found my muse when I looked around my beautiful Southern Virginia lake home and realized I was in an ideal setting for cozy mystery/Southern Gothic novels. Pastoral scenes and quirky small-town characters abound here, and, let’s face it, the South is ripe for drama, what with all that Civil War angst and unwillingness to accept change of any sort. A Red, Red Rose features Ashby Overton, a 20-year-old who travels from New Jersey to her ancestral estate, Overhome, where she finds mystery, history, romance and a ghost as she digs for her family roots at the historic Moore Mountain Lake horse farm. Offered a contract by L&L Dreamspell, a small indie press in Texas, I was in Seventh Heaven. But old bad luck struck again. Due to the death of one of the publishing team, Dreamspell folded, leaving 250 authors scrambling for new publishers.

Now I am counting myself one lucky author to be published by The Wild Rose Press. They are wonderful to work with—from the publisher to the editor—my experience has been a dream come true. Beneath the Stones, sequel to A Red, Red Rose released April 1st of this year. Guess what I am working on now? The third Overhome novel, of course. Wish me luck!

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Blurb

Ashby Overton has everything to look forward to, including a promising writing career and her wedding at summer’s end. But, Overhome, her beloved historic family estate in Southern Virginia, is in financial peril and it is up to Ashby to find a solution.

Interfering with Ashby’s plans is a dark paranormal force that thwarts her every effort to save Overhome. Supernatural attacks emanate from an old stone cottage on the property rumored to be a slave overseer’s abode, prior to the Civil War. As the violence escalates, Ashby begins to fear for her life. Who is this angry spirit and why is his fury focused on Ashby?

Mystery, suspense and romance flourish against a backdrop of Civil War turmoil and ancestral strife–where immortality infiltrates the ancient air breathed by all who inhabit Overhome Estate.

I’d like to add my author’s note for Beneath the Stones: The Civil War letters included in Beneath the Stones are based on actual letters written from battle fronts by family ancestors, Joseph Franklin Stover and John William Stover. After my mother-in-law’s death, the family found a nondescript box in her file cabinet. Inside we were amazed to find fifteen letters hand-written in beautiful, flowing script. Since this occurred as I was in the midst of writing Beneath the Stones, I immediately seized on the idea of using excerpts from the letters in the novel. Though, for practical reasons, I omitted many details, overall the letters reveal a haunting picture of life for the Confederate soldier. A final note: The flute mentioned in one of the letters is very likely the same flute on display at the Museum of the Confederacy in Appomattox, Virginia.

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Bio

I have long been interested in Southern concerns about culture and society, as hard-felt, long-held feelings battle with modern ideas. The ghosts slipped in, to my surprise while writing cozy mystery/Southern Gothic A Red, Red Rose and its sequel Beneath the Stones.

My first published work was the award-winning young adult novel, Eaglebait. I live at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia.

When not writing, I enjoy boating, kayaking, golf and yoga. My husband and I love to travel, especially when any of our seven grandchildren are involved.

Where to find Susan…

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Oprah and Tim Storey

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Yesterday, Oprah sat under the oaks with spiritual teacher, life coach and author Tim Storey. Throughout the telecast, Oprah quoted from Tim’s book, Comebacks & Beyond: How to Turn Your Setbacks Into Comebacks.

For the first ten years of Tim’s life, there was joy and a definite rhythm to life in the Storey household, but all that changed when his father died. Tim watched as his siblings medicated themselves to deal with their loss. Even at an young age, Tim sensed that setbacks could be transformed.

At age seventeen, he received the calling to become a pastor and decided to devote his life to helping others find meaning in life. In 1992, Tim started a Bible Study at the home of actress Dyan Cannon. Seven people attended that first meeting and today the group known as “The Study” attracts more than 1000 attendees. In the past three decades, Tim has shared his inspiring message in seventy different countries.

When asked about a common denominator to setbacks, Tim pointed out that some people tend to live in the shame and guilt of their experiences. Frustrated by their inability to go back and “fix” the situation, they “nurse it, curse it, and rehearse it.” Instead, Tim urges everyone to accept the Now and take an inventory of what is working.

Another common thread is a sense of unworthiness: “I don’t think I deserve to experience this because of past setbacks.” Tim reminds us that God has forgiven our past mistakes and we need to renew the way we think. When a challenging situation arises, we should ask: “Why is it here? What is my lesson?” God often steers us into unknown corners (spaces and places we’ve never been) as part of his divine plan.

Tim also stresses the need to turn up the volume on our lives and get our “shouts” back. Disappointments can knock out the shouts and reduce our voices to whispers. To prevent that from happening, Tim advises shouting on purpose. He takes a moment each day where he inwardly shouts about what is going well in his life.

Quotable Quotes

Your dream has a voice.

A comeback is not a go-back.

Your life isn’t about a big break. It’s about one significant life transforming step at a time.

Play it down, pray it up, and look for the wisdom.

Darkness will surround, but it doesn’t have to get in.

If you’re trifling, the real YOU will say, “Get it together.”

There is a lesson in all our failures: We can fail forward.

Better Than Before – A Book Review

betterthanbeforeA fan of self-help literature, I look forward to each year’s crop of inspirational and motivational books. Right now, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives is at the top of my Favorites List.

New York Times best-selling author Gretchen Rubin has expertly woven research, anecdotes, and personal insights in this excellent study of habit formation. She does not provide a one-size-fits-all approach or prescribe specific habits. Instead, she explores how to develop sustainable habits that will help us achieve our own versions of Everyday Life in Utopia (a chapter title suggested by her daughter Eleanor).

Rubin starts by outlining The Four Tendencies—Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, Rebel—and then suggests appropriate strategies in the Pillars of Habits section. While the concepts of Monitoring, Foundation, Scheduling, and Accountability are not new, they are presented using a lively, conversational style aimed at increasing self-knowledge.

I paid special attention to the following strategies:

Foundation Four – Begin with habits that help us sleep, move, eat and drink right, and unclutter. These habits will serve as the foundation for forming other good habits.

Power Hour – To deal with the small, one-time tasks (e.g. creating a photo album) that Rubin kept putting off, she decided once a week, for one hour, she would work on these chores.

Clean Slate – Fresh starts such as a new apartment, job or school and changes in personal relationships wipe the slate clean and can help us launch a new habit with less effort. But a clean slate can also disrupt good habits or break positive routines.

Lightning Bolt – While this is a very effective strategy, it cannot be invoked. A new idea triggered by an inspirational book, milestone birthday, pregnancy or another event can instantly transform habits.

Blast Start – When small steps are not working, a blast start can help us take the first step. This kind of shock treatment cannot be maintained, but it can give momentum to a new project.

Bright-Line Rule – A clearly defined rule or standard that eliminates any need for decision-making can help us achieve greater clarity. E.g. Answering every email within 24 hours.

Throughout the book, Gretchen Rubin shares her own successes and challenges along with those of family members, friends, and blog followers. Intrigued and inspired by the low-carb diet she adopted and the ripple effect it created within her circle, I picked up a copy of Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes.

And I couldn’t resist classifying myself: I am an Upholder, Abstainer, Marathoner, Finisher, and Owl.

Where to find Gretchen Rubin…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Linked In | Amazon

Spotlight on Becky Lower

I am happy to feature Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower and her new release, Expressly Yours, Samantha.

Here’s Becky!

beckylowerAs is the case with most authors, I started writing complicated plot lines as soon as I could pick up a crayon. But there’s a world of difference between being a writer and being an author. The author thing didn’t happen until much later in my life.

For years, I’d entertain my friends with long stories about my complicated, dysfunctional family. While they enjoyed my stories, I was constantly told I should write them down instead of being a vocal storyteller. I ignored their good advice since I was busy with a job and had a rambling old house that kept falling apart.

Then, my life got shook up. The economic downturn happened and my job disappeared. While I scrambled for ways to pay the mortgage on the rambling old house, I saw an ad for an adult learning course offered at a local community college, on How To Write A Romance Novel. Even though it had been years since I’d written anything, I signed up for the class.

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I’d like to say I went right from that class to selling my first manuscript to a major publisher. But reality didn’t match up with my dreams. That first manuscript is still under the bed. Oh, I worked on it, entered it in some contests, took the feedback and rewrote it, even won a contest based on the first three chapters. But it never quite gelled for me. I’ll get back to it some day, since it contains two of my most favorite things–time travel and the early American west.

As I slid the time travel idea under the bed, I asked myself what I really wanted to write. I’m a big fan of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, but I didn’t want to write books set in England. Then, a friend of mine began to talk about her days as a debutante and her Cotillion Ball, and the lightbulb moment happened. The Cotillion may have begun in Europe, but it did eventually make its way into American high society. A bit of research later, and my Cotillion Ball Series was born. There are nine siblings in this well-to-do New York family, and each one has patiently (or, in Jasmine’s case, not so patiently) waited for their own book to be written. Expressly Yours, Samantha, is the seventh book in this nine-book series, and features the youngest boy in the family, Valerian. He’s a rider for the fabled Pony Express and fate brings him into contact with Sam Hughes, who is really a girl named Samantha, on the run from an abusive uncle.

Obviously, I like to write about American history and use it as a backdrop for my stories. I was fortunate to have the Cotillions begin during an era where there was so much going on in America–tensions were mounting between the North and South over slavery, the West was being opened to settlers willing to face the journey, the Pony Express, and then the Civil War. What an exciting time in America as events, both great and small, impacted the lives of those living through it.

But what an enormous amount of research was needed for each book. So, I began to write contemporaries in between each historical, just for a break from the research. I now have three contemporaries in print and a trilogy under way. All the books so far are about women who reinvent themselves when their first acts were finished. Kind of the story of my life, wouldn’t you say?

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Blurb

Samantha Hughes has one day to escape from her wicked uncle, and a sign in the post office is her answer. She’ll cut her hair to pose as a man and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.

Valerian Fitzpatrick doesn’t want the weight of responsibility that his brothers have in the family business. Fortunately, the Pony Express offers a chance to make his own way in the world.

He assumes his new buddy, Sam, is on the run from the law, until she’s hit by a stray gunshot and he has to undress her to staunch the wound. Friendship quickly turns to attraction—and more—but when Sam’s uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again.

Val’s determined to find her, but will a future with Sam mean giving up the freedom he’s always craved?

Bio

Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it on a covered wagon headed west or in present day small town America. Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Historic and Contemporary RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at beckylowerauthor@gmail.com.

Where to find Becky…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon

Failure is What Success Looks Like, Before It’s Born

I am happy to feature Soul Mate author Zen DiPietro and her upcoming release Guardians of Terath: Seeking Sorrow.

Here’s Zen!

zendipietroIn any creative process, you have to make a lot of bad things before you can make good things. I got my bad books out of the way right after college. I’m glad of that, because it paved the way for what came later.

It took me several years afterward to get back to writing, but when the idea for Seeking Sorrow came along, it started burrowing into my head with two particular scenes. I wrote the entire book around those two scenes. Not surprisingly, they’re two of my favorite sections of the whole book.

Once I’d resolved to get this story out of my head and into text, it all poured out, and the product was Seeking Sorrow. And then Facing Fortune. And now the not-yet-named Book 3 of the series.

If you have a passion for something, keep at it. If the first few things you make aren’t any good, be glad for them, because you’re that much closer to making something that really makes you proud.

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Excerpt

An earth-like world of high-tech humans faces the reality that their world is not as safe as they thought it was. Five people are thrown together to quietly get to the bottom of an unfathomable mana event that must stay quiet. If the population of Terath becomes aware of the truth, it will spark a civil war. That war would pit the majority of the population against the powerful minority with the ability to harness and manipulate mana. The resulting cataclysm would decimate the population and tear apart the foundation of society.

The five people chosen for this must reconsider everything they thought they knew about mana, even as they learn to trust one another’s abilities. They must embrace everything they never wanted in order to prevent the devastation of their world. One of them will be forever changed. Love will be denied, badassery will be unleashed, and Terath will never be the same.

Even success comes at a price.

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Bio

Zen DiPietro is a lifelong bookworm, a fantasy/sci-fi writer, a dancer, and a mom of two. Also red-haired, left-handed, and a vegetarian geek. Absolutely terrible at conforming. Particular loves include badass heroines, Star Trek, British accents, baba ganoush, and the smell of Band-Aids. Writing reviews, author interviews, and fun stuff at Women of Badassery. Very active on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Where to find Zen…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads